Members of USUAA, faculty representative Larry Foster and UAA Bookstore representatives Jim Cummings and Joyce Colajezzi met Dec. 13 to brainstorm strategies for lowering the cost of textbooks at UAA. The most prominent issues were late submissions of textbook orders by faculty and ways to lower textbook costs to students.
USUAA president Chris Hall said he hoped the meeting would establish a timetable for textbook ordering to ensure teachers submit orders to the bookstore in time for the upcoming semester.
Bookstore manager Joyce Colajezzi said the bookstore needs faculty textbook orders by April 15 to have enough textbooks available for the fall semester.
The bookstore gives a push for textbook orders during February because by the end of April, most professors are gone and some leave without submitting their textbook orders, Cummings said.
“You have to catch them unaware,” Foster said of getting messages to faculty about order deadlines.
Colajezzi said another big problem is when faculty order the newest edition of a textbook when about half of the time the book’s content is the same.
“Algebra hasn’t changed since Euclid,” Foster said.
The math department has a faculty textbook committee that selects books for certain courses. Prices have never been listed on the books and have never been a factor in the book selection process, Foster said.
“I just know that some books are better than others,” Colajezzi said, noting that faculty should not sacrifice the quality of a book for its price.
“I wouldn’t mind paying more for a textbook if I was sure I’d be able to sell it back,” Hall said.
Colajezzi listed the English 111 course, Introduction to Literature, as an example for an overabundance of books for one course. Each of the 45 sections of the class require a different text, but it would benefit students for all sections to require one text, Colajezzi said.
Foster cautioned against mandatory textbook assignment to specific courses.
“Department chairs won’t stay very long if they start making unilateral decisions,” Foster said.
Hall suggested departments form textbook committees like that in the math department to adopt appropriate textbooks for introductory courses for specific time periods. Faculty textbook committees would also be able to focus attention on the decision to bundle materials.
Foster said textbook prices can be cut nearly in half by not ordering books in bundles.
“If it’s a valid use of bundling, not too many (students) have a problem with it,” Hall said. But many students find they don’t need all the texts and materials included in the bundle.
Colajezzi said the bundling system does not give students the option to not buy certain materials and most students do not buy the study guides for textbooks if they are not required or bundled.
Foster suggested faculty order a small number of study guides and put them on reserve at the Consortium Library for the students who do use them.
To spread knowledge about textbook ordering, Foster suggested getting presentation time in front of the faculty senate, department chairs and the provost.
Hall set forth a plan to present a USUAA resolution to the UA Assembly including what is wrong with the current system of faculty textbook ordering, what should be changed and how to go about making those changes. After adoption by the assembly, the resolution would be presented before the Faculty Senate and would lastly move before provost Ted Kassier.
“The best feedback I get (from students) is those blue forms,” Foster said, referring to teacher evaluations collected near the end of each semester. That feedback should be on the quality of the textbook and whether the faculty’s choice of bundling worked in students’ best interests.